Recent weeks have been a strange and compelling time for me. I have been called on to think deeply about behaviors that contribute to Healing Presence. At the same time to ever more deeply explore early childhood experiences of emotional absence. This dual preoccupation has freshly illuminated the gift in the wound that is my calling in life.
Putting myself in good hands
I can see now that I have devoted myself professionally to being “the good hands” in which I want to place myself whenever I seek health care or disease (medical) care. Being those “good hands” comes down to a felt quality of relationship that engenders trust and a sense of being met, seen, and cared for.
This is how I define Healing Presence, a particular application of living life as an imperfect and vulnerable human being.
Healing Presence looms large in my professional foreground. Peer into my personal background and I find a profound absence of being met, seen, and emotionally cared for early in life. The gift in the wound. The lotus rising from the mud. A calling. Or, as the Jewish sages have taught, God has created the cure even before the disease.
Countless times I have sat with a client holding for her the foreground and background of her life work that she cannot yet see, as she heartfully yearns to be able to grasp what is just inside and right in front of her.
Just as I could not see that while I was trying to salve, and solve, my early life difficulties with emotional absence, I was in the same moments perpetuating it. There are large swaths of my life where I have been in absentia. In vain my daughters have asked me about certain family events of life-altering significance to them: I have no memory to illumine their own search for meaning or understanding.
Healing Presence in the face of absence from life
Until very recently, I could not answer my own question: Where was I at those moments? Now I understand that my attention was focused not on what was in front of me – and them. I was, unawares, scanning entire universes for danger, mustering and deploying armies of defenders, all skills I began to apprentice before I had even the earliest language skills. Developmentally, a supremely young part of me was in charge.
The ongoing psycho-spiritual work of allowing these patterns to appear, of feeling utter loneliness, and unwinding embedded physiological patterns brings me back to Healing Presence. Because I do not entrust myself and this work lightly to anyone. And I have been fortunate to have been in the best of hands with friends, role models, teachers, and practitioners who have helped me to heal and awaken.
Here are some of the qualities and behaviors of Healing Presence I look for in the company I keep – in life and in the treatment room
We click. I have been met, seen, cared for unconditionally enough, if imperfectly. I feel a quality of relationship that engenders my trust. I sense that we can develop a partnership that serves my needs and desires and honors her expertise and viewpoint. So if a conflict develops around a course of action or treatment, it can be a productive one.
Each of my professional helpers…
- listens to me deeply, non-judgmentally, with curiosity and nuance.
- trusts that I am an expert on my own life.
- trusts my body-mind-spirit’s innate wisdom, uniqueness, and capacity to heal.
- accepts and responds to my story, language, and emotions (or lack thereof) as the foundation for our work. She is then free to validate, encourage, reframe, educate, or challenge me. To articulate, clarify, question, counsel, and illuminate. To partner, lead, or follow willingly as appropriate.
- is comfortable with silence, tears, guffaws.
- presents herself as a professional, grounded in ethics and respect for the limits of her scope of practice.
- offers a fertile mix of critical thinking and humility, which discourages her from coming to premature conclusions, and encourages her to make good use of her knowledge and to embrace what cannot be known.
I take these qualities and behaviors as the fruits of my practitioner’s own life of practice. Most often her practice is not going to be precisely my practice, and that does not matter. I may or may not learn deeply about or embrace the language or practices of her path or discipline over the time we work together towards my healing and awakening.
That we can walk together is essential, each of us knowledgable, wise and limited in our own ways: gifted by our own wounds, answering our respective callings. This is when I know I am in good hands.
These are the good hands I aspire to be.
If you are looking to place yourself in good hands, in a partnership dedicated to your healing and awakening…
OR if you are a practitioner who wants to explore and deepen your own Healing Presence with your clients or patients…
LET’S TALK…. be in touch.
IF you are interested in a peer-reviewed article on Healing Presence, this is a good place to start.
Banner photo: original painting by Sheri Hoeger, A Touch of Hands